Creative Baggage, a podcast from Philadelphia about the importance of music education

Throughout the pandemic, especially during quarantine, millions of people around the world have relied on media of all forms to cope with isolation, fear, uncertainty and boredom. pure.

Whether it’s Netflix movies and TV shows, video games, books or music, the world has turned to creators to help them through the collective trauma of a global pandemic.

Although it is clear that the arts are a vital part of society, working in the industry can often be a struggle, and there continues to be a lack of adequate school programs for young people to express themselves in a meaningful way. creative.

In an interview with AL DÍA, Serena Huang and Bailey Spiteri, co-hosts of the Creative Baggage podcast, talked about the importance of music and arts education in their lives and how it benefits all individuals.

Creative Baggage is a conversation-based show that “gives voice to the unspoken baggage of pursuing a career in the arts”.

Huang and Spiteri, who are both experienced flautists, discuss with various artists and intellectuals to transform the concept of creativity.

The co-hosts officially met and became friends while attending Temple University, but coincidentally hailed from the same part of New Jersey and had some of the same flute teachers.

Spiteri said their friendship was like a breath of fresh air, as there’s usually a lot of “nastiness and competition” in the music performance world.

When the pandemic hit, Spiteri and Huang were reassessing their lives and career paths. Spiteri had just dropped out of her double major in music education to focus solely on performance, and she felt very discouraged about the future of music education in Philadelphia.

“So we decided to start recording some of our conversations, and that turned into Creative Baggage, basically. And on the podcast, we talk about a series of things that young creative artists who are getting into non-traditional work environments,” Spiteri said.

Both co-hosts had “less than savory” experiences with music education programs at schools far more privileged than Philadelphia schools. So when they started noticing the substandard arts programming in the city, that became one of the main focuses of the podcast.

“We’re really passionate about the fact that whatever you pursue in life, whether it’s [becoming a] doctor, lawyer or scientist, creativity and artistic thinking are needed, and we believe it is a human right to have that in your education,” Spiteri said.

Huang and Spiteri are very discouraged to see many schools putting music and the arts aside. In elementary school, they witnessed the prioritization of STEM over the arts, and only students who excelled in math and science were considered successful.

“But the truth is, it’s through these programs that kids learn emotional intelligence, and especially in low-income communities, it’s so important to learn how to process what you’re going through. But unfortunately, many of the schools with the largest population of children from difficult backgrounds have the fewest emotional wellness programs,” Spiteri said.

Huang, who is currently based in Paris, explained the differences between music education in France and the United States.

While classical music and conservatories are more valued and often well funded by the government in France, Huang noticed that most children are not exposed to instrumental instruction in public schools. So, unless they come from a musical family or one that enrolls them in separate music lessons, students are less likely to discover classical music on their own.

One of Huang’s favorite things about music education, when executed successfully, is that there isn’t as much pressure to excel and achieve. There’s plenty of room to make mistakes and keep growing while having fun along the way.

“It’s not about achieving instrumental, vocal or artistic excellence, it’s about thinking differently. For some kids, music is so much less intimidating and scary than other classes. It’s really about giving every child the opportunity to have something they can do well and feel safe in,” Huang said.

For Huang, being involved in music has significantly improved his social well-being. When she moved to a new school district and a group director encouraged members to participate in extracurricular activities, it became easier for her to open up and make new friends.

“I had this feeling of confidence that I had something, that I was creating something. And then all the little social awkwardness that you feel that’s so magnified when you’re in middle school and high school seems less serious, because I can go home and practice my flute and do my thing,” Huang said.

On the topic of advocacy, the two co-hosts applaud the work being done through grants and fundraising for quality arts education, but take issue with how the benefits of this type of education are framed.

Often, the push for arts education comes from statistics that show schools with music programs score higher on tests. But Huang and Spiteri would prefer a focus on emotional well-being, confidence, self-expression and enrichment.

“What’s unique about us is that, like our podcast, we stand up for these things, but we stand up for, you know, in a way that’s not in any private interest. We just care about what we find most important, which is the well-being of the next generation of American children,” Spiteri said.

When asked what a quality music program looks like, both hosts agreed that money is important, but shouldn’t be the focus.

In Huang’s experience, she had a pretty well-funded music program, but she ended up quitting the band in high school because it wasn’t fun anymore.

“Although in college it was the best part of my day. But when I got to high school, we didn’t have a welcoming, wholesome curriculum, even for someone who played decently well and knew all my notes and rhythms…I just didn’t have a good time,” Huang mentioned.

Huang attributes this to the discouraging pattern that occurs when a school district has money to donate to music programs. This tends to attract teachers who will earn them trophies and the emphasis shifts from fun and exploration to a strict competitive mindset.

Spiteri echoed that sentiment, saying that unless a school’s principal and school board support their music teachers financially and emotionally, “you have nothing.”

According to them, the success of a music program does not come from the number of trophies won, but from the way the community comes out to support student musicians.

“Do people come to concerts? Do people enjoy the marching band and show up to see it? Community support from all sides is what fuels success because when kids know the whole town is showing up for them, they’ll practice, they’ll learn their notes, they’ll find a way to fix their broken trumpet said Spiteri.

Philadelphia is a city rich in culture, but when it comes to funding art in the school district, it has a lot of “creative baggage.”

Huang and Spiteri are very fond of two programs, Play on Philly and Project 440, which actively bring quality music education to Philadelphians.

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